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published: 6/10/13

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David



ten commandments
The 10 Commandments
Circa 2nd century B.C.

Who was David?

David was the second king of Israel.

Name and Genealogy

This name, which is written "defectively" in the older books, such as those of Samuel, but fully with the yodh in Chronicles and the later books, is derived, like the similar name Jedidish (2 Samuel 12:25 ), from a root meaning "to love." The only person who bears this name in the Bible is the son of Jesse, the second king of Israel. His genealogy is given in the table appended to the Book of Ruth (Rth 4:18-22).

Here the following points are to be noted: David belonged to the tribe of Judah: his ancestor Nahshon was chieftain of the whole tribe (Numbers 1:7 ; Numbers 2:3 ; 1 Chronicles 2:10 ) and brother-in-law of Aaron the high priest (Exodus 6:23 ). As no other descendants of Nahshon are mentioned, his authority probably descended to Jesse by right of primogeniture.

This supposition is countenanced by the fact that Salma (Salmon), the name of the son of Nahshon and father of Boaz, is also the name of a grandson of Caleb who became "father" of Bethlehem, the home of Jesse (1 Chronicles 2:51 ). David was closely connected with the tribe of Moab, the mother of his grandfather Obed being Ruth the Moabitess.





Of the wife or wives of Jesse we know nothing, and consequently are without information upon a most interesting point - the personality of the mother of David; but that she too may have been of the tribe of Moab is rendered probable by the fact that, when hard pressed, David placed his parents under the protection of the king of that country (1 Samuel 22:3 , 1 Samuel 22:1 ).

Early Years

The home of David when he comes upon the stage of history was the picturesque town of Bethlehem.

Shepherd

There his family had been settled for generations, indeed ever since the Israelite nation had overrun the land of Canaan. His father was apparently not only the chief man of the place, but he seems to have been chieftain of the whole clan to which he belonged - the clan of Judah. Although the country round Bethlehem is more fertile than that in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, the inhabitants joined to the cultivation of the soil the breeding of cattle (Luke 2:8).

David's father, not only cultivated his ancestral fields, but kept flocks of sheep and goats as well. The flocks were sent out every day to pasture in the neighboring valleys attended by the herdsmen armed so as to defend themselves and their charge, not only against marauders from the surrounding deserts, but also from the lions and bears with which the country was then infested. David seems to have been in the habit of accompanying his father's servants in their task (1 Samuel 17:20 , 1 Samuel 17:22 ), and on occasion would be left in full charge by himself. Nor was his post at such times a sinecure.

He had not only to keep a sharp lookout for thieves, but on more than one occasion had with no other weapon than his shepherd's club or staff to rescue a lamb from the clutches of a lion or a bear (1 Samuel 17:34 ). Such adventures, however, must have been rare, and David must often have watched eagerly the lengthening of the shadow which told of the approach of sunset, when he could drive his charge into the zariba for the night and return home.

There is, indeed, no life more monotonous and enervating than that of an eastern shepherd, but David must have made good use of his idle time. He seems, in fact, to have made such good use of it as to have neglected his handful of sheep. The incidents of which he boasted to Saul would not have occurred, had his proper occupation taken up all his thoughts; but, like King Alfred, his head seems to have been filled with ideas far removed from his humble task.

Slinger

David, like Nelson, does not seem to have known what it was to be afraid, and it was not to be expected that he could be satisfied with the lot of the youngest of eight sons of the now aged chief (1 Samuel 17:12 ; 1 Chronicles 2:13 ). In the East every man is a soldier, and David's bent was in that direction. The tribesmen of Benjamin near whose border his home was situated were famed through all Israel as slingers, some of whom could sling at a hair and not miss (Judges 20:16 ). Taught, perhaps, by one of these, but certainly by dint of constant practice, David acquired an accuracy of aim which reminds one of the tales of William Tell or Robin Hood (1 Samuel 17:49 ).

Harpist

Another of the pastimes in the pursuit of which David spent many an hour of his youthful days was music. The instrument which he used was the "harp" (Hebrew kinnor ). This instrument had many forms, which may be seen on the Assyrian and Egyptian monuments; but the kind used by David was probably like the modern Arabic, rubaba , having only one or two strings, played not with a plectrum (Ant. , VII, xii, 3) but by the hand (compare 1 Samuel 16:23, etc., which do not exclude a quill).

Whatever the nature of the instrument was, David acquired such proficiency in playing it that his fame as a musician soon spread throughout the countryside (1 Samuel 16:18 ). With the passing of time he becomes the Hebrew Orpheus, in whose music birds and mountains joined (compare Koran, chapter 21 ).

Poet

To the accompaniment of his lyre David no doubt sang words, either of popular songs or of lyrics of his own composition, in that wailing eastern key which seems to be an imitation of the bleating of flocks. The verses he sang would recount his own adventures or the heroic prowess of the warrior of his clan, or celebrate the loveliness of some maiden of the tribe, or consist of elegies upon those slain in battle.

That the name of David was long connected with music the reverse of sacred appears from the fact that Amos denounces the people of luxury of his time for improvising to the sound of the viol, inventing instruments of music, like David (Amos 6:5 ). (It is not clear to which clause "like David" belongs, probably to both.) The only remains of the secular poetry of David which have come down to us are his elegies on Saul and Jonathan and on Abner (2 Samuel 1:19-27 ; 2 Samuel 3:33 , 2 Samuel 3:14 ), which show him to have been a true poet.

Psalmist

Did David also compose religious verses? Was he "the sweet psalmist of Israel" (2 Samuel 23:1 )? In the oldest account which we have, contained in the books of Samuel, David appears as a musician and as a secular poet only, for it is obvious the poetical passages, 2 Sam 22:1-23:7, do not belong to the original form of that book but are thrust in in the middle of a long list of names of David's soldiers. The position is the same in Amos 6:5 . It is in the later books and passages that sacred music and psalms begin to be ascribed to him. Perhaps the earliest instance is the passage just cited containing the "last words" of David (2 Samuel 23:1-7 ).

The Chronicler (about 300 bc) seems to put parts of Psalms 105; Psalm 96:1-13 , and 106 into the mouth of David (1 Chronicles 16:7 ), and Nehemiah 12:36 regards him apparently as the inventor of the instruments used in the Temple service ( 1 Chronicles 23:5 ), or as a player of sacred music. So too in the Septuagint psalter (Ps 151:2) we read, "My hands made an organ, my fingers fashioned a psaltery"; and gradually the whole of the Psalms came to be ascribed to David as author.

In regard to this question it must be remembered that in the East at any rate there is no such distinction as that of sacred and secular. By sacred poetry we mean poetry which mentions the name of God or quotes Scripture, but the Hebrew or Arab poet will use the name of God as an accompaniment to a dance, and will freely sprinkle even comic poetry with citations from his sacred book. David must have composed sacred poems if he composed at all, and he would use his musical gift for the purposes of religion as readily as for those of amusement and pleasure (2 Samuel 6:14 , 2 Samuel 6:15 ).

Whether any of our psalms was composed by David is another question. The titles cannot be considered as conclusive evidence, and internal proofs of his authorship are wanting. Indeed the only psalm which claims to have been written by David is the 18th (= 2 Sam 22). One cannot help wishing that Psalm 23:1-6 had been sung by the little herd lad as he watched his father's flocks and guarded them from danger.

Tribesman

There are sayings of Mohammed that the happiest life is that of the shepherd, and that no one became a prophet who had not at one time tended a flock of sheep. What Mohammed meant was that the shepherd enjoys leisure and solitude for reflection and for plunging into those day dreams out of which prophets are made.

If David, like the Arab poet Tarafa, indulged in sport, in music and in poetry, even to the neglect of his charge, he must have sought out themes on which to exercise his muse; and it must have been with no little chagrin that he learnt that whereas the tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulun, Levi, Dan, and even the non-Israelite tribes of Kenaz and the debatable land of Gilead could boast of having held the hegemony of Israel and led the nation in battle, his own tribe of Judah had played a quite subordinate part, and was not even mentioned in the national war song of Deborah.

As contrasted with the poets of these tribes he could boast in his verses only of Ibzan who belonged to his own town of Bethlehem (Judges 12:8 ). The Jerahmeelites were no doubt a powerful clan, but neither they nor any other of the subdivisions of Judah had ever done anything for the common good. Indeed, when the twelve pathfinders had been sent in advance into Canaan, Judah had been represented by Caleb, a member of the Uitlander tribe of Kenaz (Numbers 13:6 ).

He became apparently the adopted son of Hezron and so David might claim kinship with him, and through him with Othniel the first of the judges (Judges 1:13 ). David Thus belonged to the least efficient of all the Israelite tribes except one, and one which, considering its size and wealth, had till now failed to play a worthy part in the confederacy. It is difficult to believe that the young David never dreamed of a day when his own tribe should take its true place among its fellows, and when the deliverer of Israel from its oppressors should belong for once to the tribe of Judah.

In the Service of Saul

The earliest events in the career of David are involved in some obscurity.

David First Meets Saul

This is due mainly to what appears to be an insoluble difficulty in 1 Samuel 16 and 17. In chapter 16, David is engaged to play before Saul in order to dispel is melancholy, and becomes his squire or armor-bearer (1 Samuel 16:21 ), whereas in the following chapter he is unknown to Saul, who, after the death of Goliath, asks Abner who he is, and Abner replies that he does not know (1 Samuel 17:55 ).

This apparent contradiction may be accounted for by the following considerations: ( a ) 1 Samuel 16:14-23 may be inserted out of its chronological order for the sake of the contrast with the section immediately preceding - "the spirit of Yahweh came mightily upon David from that day forward ... the spirit of Yahweh departed from Saul" ( 1 Samuel 16:13 , 1 Samuel 16:14 ); (b ) The fact of David becoming Saul's squire does not imply constant personal attendance upon him; the text says David became an (not his) armor-bearer to Saul.

The king would have many such squires: Joab, though only commander-in-chief, had, it seems, eighteen (2 Samuel 23:37 reads "armor-bearers"); ( c ) David would not play before Saul every day: his presence might not be required for a space of weeks or months; (d ) Saul's failure to recognize David may have been a result of the 'evil spirit from Yahweh' and Abner's denial of knowledge may have been feigned out of jealousy. If we accept all the statements of the dramatis personae in these narratives we shall not get very far.

His First Exploit

The facts seem to have been somewhat as follows: It had become evident that Saul was not equal to the task to which he had been set - the task of breaking the Philistine power, and it became the duty of Samuel, as the vicar of Yahweh and as still holding very large powers, to look about for a successor. He turned to the tribe of Judah (the full brother of his own ancestor Levi), a tribe which was fast becoming the most powerful member of the federation.

The headman of this clan was Jesse of Bethlehem. His name was well known in the country - Saul does not require to be told who he is (1 Samuel 16:18 ; 1 Samuel 17:58 ) - but he was by this time advanced in years (1 Samuel 17:12 ). He had, however, many sons.

Old men in the East often foretell a great future for a young boy (compare Luke 2:34 ). Samuel saw that David was formed of other clay than his brothers, and he anointed him as he had done Saul (1 Samuel 10:1 ). But whereas the anointing of Saul was done surreptitiously and for a definite purpose which was explained at the time (1 Samuel 10:1 ), that of David was performed before his whole family, but with what object he was not told (1 Samuel 16:13 ).

His brothers do not seem to have thought the matter of much consequence (compare 1 Samuel 17:28 ), and all David could conclude from it was that he was destined to some high office - perhaps that of Samuel's successor (compare 1 Kings 19:15 , 1 Kings 19:16 ). It would have the effect of nerving him for any adventure and raising his hopes high and steeling his courage. Whether by accident or by contrivance he became attached to Saul as minstrel (compare 2 Kings 3:15 ) and subsequently as one of his armor-bearers.

He would probably be at this time about twenty years of age. It must have been after an interval of some months that an event happened which made it impossible for Saul ever again to forget the existence of David. This was the famous duel between David and the Philistine Goliath, which saved the situation for Saul for the time (1 Sam 17).

In regard to this narrative it must be noted that 1 Sam 17:12-31, 1 Samuel 17:41 , 1 Samuel 17:50 , 1 Samuel 17:55-58 and 1 Samuel 18:1-5 are lacking in the best manuscript of the Septuagint, that is, the sending of David from Bethlehem and his fresh introduction to Saul and Saul's failure to recognize him are left out. With the omission of these verses all the difficulties of the narrative vanish.

For the reason why David could not wear the armor offered him was not because he was still a child, which is absurd in view of the fact that Saul was exceptionally tall ( 1 Samuel 9:2 ), but because he had had no practice with it (1 Samuel 17:39 ). It is ridiculous to suppose that David was not at this time full-grown, and that two armies stood by while a child advanced to engage a giant. The event gained for David the reputation won in modern times at the cannon's mouth, but also the devoted friendship of Jonathan and the enmity of Saul (1 Samuel 18:1-9 ).

The next years of David's life were spent in the service of Saul in his wars with the Philistines. David's success where Saul had failed, however, instead of gratifying only inflamed the jealousy of the latter, and he determined to put David out of the way. More than once he attempted to do so with his own hand (1 Samuel 18:11 ; 1 Samuel 19:10 ), but he also employed stratagem. It came to his ears that his daughter Michal, as well as his son Jonathan, loved David, and Saul undertook to give her to David on the condition of his killing one hundred Philistines.

Envy of Saul and Flight of David

The gruesome dowry was paid, and David became Saul's son-in-law. The Hebrew text states that Saul first offered his elder daughter to David, and then failed to implement his promise (1 Samuel 18:17-19 , 1 Samuel 18:21 ), but this passage is not found in the Greek. David's relation to Saul did not mitigate the hatred of the latter; indeed his enmity became so bitter that David determined upon flight. With the help of stratagem on the part of Michal, this was effected and David went to Samuel at Ramah for counsel and advice (1 Samuel 19:18 ).

There Saul pursued him, but when he came into the presence of the prophet, his courage failed and he was overcome by the contagion of the prophetic ecstasy (1 Samuel 19:24 ) as he had been on a previous occasion (1 Samuel 10:11 ). David returned to Gibeah, while the coast was clear, to meet Jonathan, but Saul also returned immediately, his hatred more intense than before. David then continued his flight and came to Ahimelech, the priest at Nob (1 Samuel 21:1 ).

It is sometimes supposed that we have here two inconsistent accounts of David's flight, according to one of which he fled to Samuel at Ramah, and according to the other to Ahimelech at Nob; but there is no necessity for such a supposition, and even if it were correct, it would not clear up all the difficulties of the narrative. There is evidently much in these narratives that is left untold and our business should be to fill up the gaps in a way consistent with what we are given. That Saul made sure that David would not return is shown by the fact that he gave his daughter Michal to a man of the tribe of Benjamin as wife (1 Samuel 25:44 ).

Jonathan and David

The relation existing between Jonathan and David was one of pure friendship. There was no reason why it should not be so. A hereditary monarchy did not yet exist in Israel. The only previous attempt to establish such an institution - that of Gideon's family (Jdg 9) - though not of Gideon himself (1 Sam 8:23) - had ended in failure. The principle followed hitherto had been that of election by the sheikhs or caids of the clans.

To this Saul owed his position, for the lot was a kind of ballot. Moreover, behind all national movements there lay the power of the prophets, the representatives of Yahweh. Saul was indebted for his election to Samuel, just as Barak was to Deborah (Judges 4:6 ). Like the judges who preceded him he had been put forward to meet a definite crisis in the national affairs - the rise of the Philistine power (1 Samuel 9:16 ). Had he succeeded in crushing these invaders, the newly-established kingdom would in the absence of this bond of union have dissolved again into its elements, as had happened on every similar occasion before.

He was the only judge who had failed to accomplish the task for which he was appointed, and he was the only one who had been appointed on the understanding that his son should succeed him, for this constitutes the distinction between king and judge. Moreover, not only was Saul aware that he had failed, but he saw before him the man who was ready to step into his place and succeed. His rival had, besides, the backing of the mass of the people and of Samuel who was still virtual head of the state and last court of appeal.

It is not to be wondered at that Saul was hostile to David. Jonathan, on the other hand, acquiesced in the turn things had taken and bowed to what he believed to be the inevitable. Such was his love for David that he asked only to be his wazeer (vizier) when David came to the throne (1 Samuel 23:17 ). David's position was perhaps the most difficult imaginable. He had to fight the battles of a king whose one idea was to bring about his ruin. He was the bosom friend of a prince whom he proposed to supplant in his inheritance. His hope of salvation lay in the death of his king, the father of his wife and of his best friend.

The situation would in ordinary circumstances be intolerable, and it would have been impossible but for the fact that those concerned were obsessed by a profound belief in Fate. Jonathan bore no grudge against David for aiming at the throne, because to the throne he was destined by the will of Yahweh. To David it would never occur that he had the choice of declining the high destiny in store for him. Had he had the power to refuse what he believed to be the decree of Fate, he would hardly escape censure for his ambition and disloyalty.

David in Exile

David as Outlaw

From the moment of his flight David became an outlaw and remained so until the death of Saul. This period of his career is full of stirring adventures which remind us of Robert Bruce or William Wallace of Scotland. Like King Arthur and other heroes he carried a famous sword - the sword of Goliath (1 Samuel 21:9 ). Having obtained it of Ahimelech, he for the first time left Israelite territory and went to the Philistine city of Gath (1 Samuel 21:10 ). Not feeling safe here he left and took up his abode in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1 ) in the country of Judah, almost within sight of his native Bethlehem.

This cave was admirably suited to the outlaw's purpose and no doubt David had many a time explored its recesses when a boy. Here he was joined by his parents and brothers, with their servants, as well as by all sorts of persons who were at war with the government, debtors, fugitives from justice, and discontented persons generally. David Thus became the chief of a band of outlaws who numbered about 400.

Of such stuff some of his bravest soldiers were made (2 Samuel 23:13 ). He had an augur, too, to direct his actions, and, after the massacre of the priests at Nob, a priest, Abiathar, carrying an ephod with which to cast lots (1 Samuel 22:5 ; 1 Samuel 23:6 ). During this period he supported himself and his men by making raids on the Philistine outposts and levying blackmail on his own countrymen (1 Samuel 25:2 ) in return for giving them his protection from the Philistines (1 Samuel 23:1 ).

Hard pressed both by Saul and the Philistines (who had established themselves even in Bethlehem) he committed his parents to the keeping of the king of Moab, and began to rove as a freebooter through the country (1 Samuel 23:5 , 1 Samuel 23:15 , 1 Samuel 23:25 , 1 Samuel 23:29 ). On two occasions David had Saul in his power, but refused to seize the opportunity of taking his life (1 Sam 24-26). Here again there are no adequate grounds for supposing we have two accounts of one and the same incident. During his wandering David's followers increased in numbers (compare 1 Samuel 22:2 ; 1 Samuel 23:13 ; 1 Samuel 25:13 ).

His chief lieutenant was his nephew Abishai, the son of his sister Zeruiah, but his brothers, Joab and Asahel, do not seem to have joined David yet. Another of his nephews, Jonathan the son of Shimei (Shammah), is mentioned (2 Samuel 21:21 ; compare 1 Samuel 16:9 ) and the Chronicler thinks many other knights joined him during this period (1 Chronicles 11:10 ). The position of David at this time was very similar to that of the brigand Raisuli of late in Morocco. That there was some stability in it is shown by his taking two wives at this time - A hinoam and Abigail (1 Samuel 25:42 , 1 Samuel 25:43 ).

David Joins the Philistines

David now, abandoning all hope of ever conciliating the king (1 Samuel 27:1 ), made a move which shows at once his reckless daring and consummate genius. He offered the services of himself and his little army of 600 men to the enemies of his country. The town of Gath appears to have been an asylum for fugitive Israelites (1 Kings 2:39 ). David's first impulse on his flight from Saul had been to seek safety there (1 Samuel 21:10-15 ).

Then, however, he was the hero of Israel, whose assassination would be the highest gain to the Philistines; now he was the embittered antagonist of Saul, and was welcomed accordingly. Achish placed at his disposal the fortified town of Ziklag in the territory of the now extinct tribe of Simeon, and there he and his followers, each of whom had his family with him, took up their quarters for sixteen months (1 Samuel 27:6 , 1 Samuel 27:7 ).

The advantages to David were many. He was safe at last from the persecution of Saul (1 Samuel 27:4 ); he could secure ample supplies by making raids upon the Amalekites and other tribes hostile to Israel toward the South (1 Samuel 27:8 ); and if the opportunity presented itself he could deal a serious blow at the Philistine arms.

The position was no doubt a precarious one. It could last just as long as David could hoodwink Achish by persuading him that his raids were directed against his own tribe (1 Samuel 27:10 ). This he succeeded in doing so completely that Achish would have taken him with him on the campaign which ended in the decisive battle of Gilboa, but the other chiefs, fearing treachery, refused to allow him to do so.

David was forced to return with his followers to Ziklag, only to find that town razed to the ground and all the women and children carried off by his old enemies the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:1 , 1 Samuel 30:2 ). By the time he had recovered the spoil and returned in triumph to Ziklag the battle of Gilboa had been fought and Saul was slain. The conduct of David in his relations with the Philistines was not more reprehensible than that of the Cid who allied himself with Al -Mu'taman of Saragossa, or of Coriolanus who went over to the Volsci. David composed upon the death of Saul and Jonathan an elegy every sentence of which has become classic.

David as King

Civil War

David immediately removed from Ziklag and took up his quarters at Hebron, where he was at once anointed king over his own tribe of Judah. Thus began the cleavage between Judah and Israel. Here he was joined, apparently for the first time, by his nephew Joab. Abner, however, loyal to his former master, had Esh-baal (1 Chronicles 8:33 ), son of Saul, anointed king over the remaining tribes at Mahanaim, a fortified town east of the Jordan.

War continued between David and Abner for several years, fortune always favoring David. Seeing things were going against him Abner forced Esh-baal into a personal quarrel with himself and then transferred his allegiance and persuaded his side to transfer theirs to David (2 Samuel 3:21 ). He did not reap the fruit of his defection, as he was immediately after assassinated by Joab in revenge for the death of Asahel whom Abner had killed in self-defence (2 Samuel 3:27 ). Deprived of his chief support Esh -baal also fell a victim to assassination (2 Samuel 4:2 ). David denounced both crimes with apparent sincerity.

He composed an elegy and fasted for Abner (2 Samuel 3:33 ) and avenged the death of Esh -baal (2 Samuel 4:9 ). Yet these acts of violence laid the sovereignty of all Israel at his feet. Of the male heirs of Saul there remained only a son of Jonathan, Merib -baal (1 Chronicles 8:34 ) who was a crippled child of 7. David was therefore elected king over the nation (2 Samuel 5:1 ). His sovereignty of Judah is said to have lasted 7 1/2 years and that over the undivided people 33, making a reign of 40 years, beginning from David's 30th year (2 Samuel 5:5 ; 1 Chronicles 3:4; in 2 Samuel 2:10 the text is probably corrupt). These are round numbers.

Conquests Abroad

King of all the Israelite tribes, David found his hands free to expel the foreigners who had invaded the sacred territory. His first step was to move his headquarters from the Southern Hebron, which he had been compelled at first to make his capital, to the more central Jerusalem. The fort here, which was still held by the aboriginal Jebusites, was stormed by Joab, David's nephew, who also superintended the rebuilding for David.

He was in consequence appointed commander-in-chief (1 Chronicles 11:6 , 1 Chronicles 11:8 ), a post which he held as long as David lived. The materials and the skilled workmen for the erection of the palace were supplied by Hiram of Tyre (2 Samuel 5:11 ). David now turned his attention to the surrounding tribes and peoples. The most formidable enemy, the Philistines, were worsted in several campaigns, and their power crippled (2 Samuel 5:17 ; 2 Samuel 8:1 ). In one of these David so nearly came by his death, that his people would not afterward permit him to take part in the fighting (2 Samuel 21:16 , 2 Samuel 21:17 ).

One of the first countries against which David turned his arms was the land of Moab, which he treated with a severity which would suggest that the Moabite king had ill-treated David's father and mother, who had taken refuge with him (2 Samuel 8:2 ). Yet his conduct toward the sons of Ammon was even more cruel (2 Samuel 12:31 ), and for less cause (1 Samuel 10:1 ). The king of Zobah (Chalkis) was defeated (2 Samuel 8:3 ), and Israelite garrisons were placed in Syria of Damascus (2 Samuel 8:6 ) and Edom (2 Samuel 8:14 ).

The sons of Ammon formed a league with the Syrian kingdoms to the North and East of Palestine (2 Samuel 10:6 , 2 Samuel 10:16 ), but these also had no success. All these people became tributary to the kingdom of Israel under David (2 Samuel 10:18 , 2 Samuel 10:19 ) except the sons of Ammon who were practically exterminated for the time being (2 Samuel 12:31 ). Thus, Israel became one of the "great powers" of the world during the reign of David and his immediate successor.

Political Situation

There is no doubt that the expansion of the boundaries of Israel at this period almost to their ideal limits (Deuteronomy 11:24 , etc.) was largely due to the fact that the two great empires of Egypt and Assyria were at the moment passing through a period of weakness and decay. The Assyrian monarchy was in a decadent state from about the year 1050 bc, and the 22nd Dynasty - to which Shishak belonged (1 Kings 14:25 ) - had not yet arisen. David, therefore, had a free hand when his time came and found no more formidable opposition than that of the petty states bordering upon Palestine. Against the combined forces of all the Israelite tribes these had never been able to effect much.

The Ark

It had been the custom of the Israelites on setting out upon expeditions in which the nation as a whole took part to carry with them the sacred box or "ark" which contained the two stone tables (Joshua 4:7 , etc.). When David had secured the fortress of Jebus for his metropolis one of his first thoughts was to bring into it this emblem of victory. It was then lying at Kiriath -jearim , possibly Abu Gosh about 8 miles Northwest of Jerusalem (compare Ps 132). Owing to the sudden death of one of the drivers, which he interpreted as indicative of anger on the part of Yahweh, David left the ark at the house of a Philistine which happened to be near at hand.

Since no misfortune befell this person, but on the contrary much prosperity, David took courage after three months to bring the sacred chest and its contents into his royal city. The ceremony was conducted with military honors in 2 Samuel 6:1 and with religious dancing and music ( 2 Samuel 6:5 , 2 Samuel 6:14 ) and festivity (2 Samuel 6:18 , 2 Samuel 6:19 ). A tent was pitched for it, in which it remained (2 Samuel 7:2 ), except when it was sent with the army to the seat of war (2 Samuel 11:11 ; 2 Samuel 15:24 ).

David, however, had already built for himself a stone palace, and he wished now to add to it a chapel royal in the shape of a small temple, such as the neighboring kings had. He was the more anxious to so do since he had much of the material ready at hand in the precious metals which formed the most valuable part of the plunder of the conquered races, such as bronze from Chalkis (2 Samuel 8:8 ), gold and silver (2 Samuel 8:11 ) and the vessels which he had received as a present from the king of Hamath (2 Samuel 8:10 ). He was persuaded, however, by the prophet Nathan to forego that task, on the ground of his having shed much human blood, and to leave it to his successor (1 Chronicles 22:8 ; 1 Chronicles 28:3 ).

Domestic Life

His Wives and Children

In accordance with the practice of the kings of his time, David had several wives. His first wife was Michal, the younger daughter of Saul. When David fled from Saul she was given to Phaltiel, but was restored to David after Saul's death. She does not appear to have borne any children. In 2 Samuel 21:8 "Michal" should be Merab ( 1 Samuel 18:19 ). During the period of separation from Michal, David took to wife Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the wife of Nabal (1 Samuel 25:43 , 1 Samuel 25:12 ), who accompanied him to Ziklag (1 Samuel 27:3 ), when they were among those captured by the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:5 ).

A fourth wife was the daughter of Talmai of Geshur, Maacah, whom he had captured in war (1 Samuel 27:8 ; 2 Samuel 3:3 ). When he removed to Hebron Ahinoam bore him his oldest son Amnon, and Abigail his second son Chileab or Daniel (2 Samuel 3:2 , 2 Samuel 3:3 ; 1 Chronicles 3:1 ); his third son was Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, and his fourth Adonijah. His mother's name was Haggith; nothing is known about her.

Two other sons, Shephatiah and Ithream were also born in Hebron (2 Samuel 3:2-5 ; 1 Chronicles 3:1-4 ). When David added the kingdom of Israel to that of Judah, he, in accordance with custom, took more wives with a view to increase his state and dignity. One of these was Bathsheba, who became the mother of Solomon (2 Samuel 5:13 ; 1 Chronicles 3:5 ; 1 Chronicles 14:3 ). David's sons discharged priestly functions (2 Samuel 8:18 ; compare Nathan in Zechariah 12:12 ).

Domestic Troubles

It was perhaps inevitable that in so large a household the usual dissensions and crimes of the harem should have sprung up in plenty. A most unvarnished account of these is given in 2 Sam 11 through 20 - it has been suggested by Abiathar the priest in order to avenge himself on Solomon for his disgrace (1 Kings 2:26 , 1 Kings 2:27 ), Solomon's mother being Bathsheba (2 Sam 11; 12). 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 recounts the wrong done to Tamar, the daughter of David and Maacah, and sister of Absalom, and how the last named, having avenged his sister's honor by killing Amnon, his oldest brother, fled for asylum to his mother's father, the king of Geshur.

Thence after two years he returned (chapter 14), only to foment rebellion against his father (chapter 15), leading to civil war between David and Judah on the one side and Absalom and Israel on the other (chapters 16; 17), and ending in the death of himself (chapter 18) and of Amasa, David's nephew, at the hands of his cousins Joab and Abishai ( 2 Samuel 20:7 ), as well as nearly precipitating the disruption of the newly founded kingdom (2 Samuel 19:43 ). The rebellion of Absalom was probably due to the fact of Solomon having been designated David's successor (compare 2 Samuel 12:24 ; 1 Chronicles 22:9 ), for Absalom had the best claim, Amnon being dead and Chileab apparently of no account.

His Officials

As David's circumstances improved he required assistance in the management of his affairs.

Prophets

The beginning of his good fortune had been the friendship of the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 16:13 ; 1 Samuel 19:18 ). The prophet or seer was keeper of the king's conscience and was not appointed by him, but claimed divine authority (2 Samuel 7:3 , 2 Samuel 7:1 ; 2 Samuel 12:1 ; 2 Samuel 24:11 ). Among the persons who discharged this duty for David were Gad the seer (1 Samuel 22:5 ) and Nathan the prophet (1 Kings 1:11 ). All these are said to have written memoirs of their times (1 Chronicles 29:29 ; 2 Chronicles 9:29 ).

Priests

Next to the prophet came the priest. The kohen (priest) was, as the name indicates, a soothsayer or diviner. The duty of Abiathar, David's first priest (1 Samuel 22:20 ), was to carry the ephod - an object used for casting lots (1 Samuel 23:6 ), in order to decide what to do in cases where there was no other way of making up one's mind (1 Samuel 30:7 ). It is not to be confused with the dress of the same name (1 Samuel 2:18 ).

Later, at Hebron, Abiathar was given a colleague, Zadok (1 Chronicles 12:28 ), and it became their duty to carry the ark in expeditions (2 Samuel 15:24 ). Shortly after the death of David, Abiathar was deposed by Solomon for his part in Adonijah's attempt to seize the throne (1 Kings 2:26 , 1 Kings 2:27 ), and Zadok remained sole priest to the king (1 Kings 2:35 ). David's sons also acted in the same capacity (2 Samuel 8:18 ). An extra private priest is mentioned in 2 Samuel 20:26 (compare 2 Samuel 23:26 , 2 Samuel 23:38 ).

Military Officers

When still an outlaw David required the services of a henchman to take command of his men in his absence. This post was held at first by different persons according to circumstances, but generally, it seems, by his nephew Abishai (1 Samuel 26:6 ). It was only after the death of Saul that his brother Joab threw in his lot with David.

His great military talents at once gave him a leading place, and as a reward for the capture of Jebus he was given the chief command, which he held against all rivals (2 Samuel 3:27 ; 2 Samuel 20:10 ) during the whole reign. David's special body-guard of Philistine troops - the Cherethites and Pelethites - were commanded by Benaiah, who in the following reign, succeeded Joab (1 Kings 2:35 ).

Other Officials

The office of recorder or magister memoriae was held during this reign and in the following by Jehoshaphat (2 Samuel 8:16 ); and that of secretary by Seraiah (2 Samuel 8:17 ), also called Shavsha (1 Chronicles 18:16 ) or Shisha (1 Kings 4:3 ). There were also the counselors, men noted for their great acumen and knowledge of human nature, such as Ahithophel and Hushai.

Mutual Rivalry

It was natural that there should be much mutual jealousy and rivalry among these officials, and that some of them should attach themselves to one of David's many sons, others to another. Thus, Amnon is the special patron of David's nephew Jonadab (2 Samuel 13:3 ; compare 2 Samuel 21:21 ), and Absalom is backed by Amasa (2 Samuel 17:25 ). The claim of Adonijah to the throne is supported by Joab and Abiathar (1 Kings 1:7 ), as against that of Solomon who is backed by Nathan, Benaiah, Zadok (1 Kings 1:8 ) and Hushai (compare Ant , VII, xiv, 4). Ahithophel sides with Absalom; Hushai with David (2 Samuel 15:12 , 2 Samuel 15:32 ).

Personal Character of David

Chronicles

We would obtain a very different idea of the personal character of David if we drew our conclusions from the books of Samuel and Kings or from the books of Chronicles. There is no doubt whatever that the former books are much truer to fact, and any estimate or appreciation of David or of any of the other characters described must be based upon them. The Chronicler, on the other hand, is biased by the religious ideas of his own time and is prejudiced in favor of some of those whose biographies he writes and against others.

He accordingly suppresses the dark passages of David's life, e.g. the murder of Uriah (1 Chronicles 20:1-8 ), or sets them in a favorable light, e.g. by laying the blame of the census upon Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1 ). David's success, especially as against Saul's misfortune, is greatly exaggerated in 1 Chronicles 12:2 , 1 Chronicles 12:22 . Ceremonial functions are greatly elaborated (chapter 16; compare 2 Sam 6). The various orders of priests and singers in the second temple have their origin traced back to David (1 Chronicles 16:4 , 1 Chronicles 16:37 ; 1 Ch 23 through 27), and the temple of Solomon itself is to all intents and purposes built by him (chapters 22; 28).

At the same time there may be much material in the shape of names and isolated statements not found in the older books, which so long as they are not tinged with the Chronicler's pragmatism or "tendency," may possibly be authentic records preserved within the circle of the priestly caste, e.g. we are told that Saul's skull was fastened in the temple of Dagon (1 Chronicles 10:10 ). There is no doubt that the true names of Ish-bosheth, Mephibosheth and Eliada (2 Samuel 2:8 ; 2 Samuel 4:4 ; 2 Samuel 5:16 ) were Ish -baal (Esh -baal ), Merib -baal and Beeliada (1 Chronicles 8:33 ; 1 Chronicles 9:39 ; 1 Chronicles 8:34 ; 1 Chronicles 9:40 ; 1 Chronicles 14:7 ); that the old name of Jerusalem was Jebus (1 Chronicles 11:4 , 1 Chronicles 11:5 ; compare Judges 19:10 , Judges 19:11 ); perhaps a son of David called Nogah has to be added to 2 Samuel 5:15 from 1 Chronicles 3:7 ; 1 Chronicles 14:6 ; in 2 Samuel 8:8 and 2 Samuel 21:18 , for Betah and Gob read Tebah (Tibhath) and Gezer (1 Chronicles 18:8 ; Genesis 22:24 ; 1 Chronicles 20:4 ). The incident recounted in 2 Samuel 23:9 happened at Pasdammim ( 1 Chronicles 11:13 ). Shammah the Harodite was the son of Elika (2 Samuel 23:25 ; compare 1 Chronicles 11:27 ), and other names in this list have to be corrected after the readings of the Chronicler. Three (not seven) years of famine was the alternative offered to David (2 Samuel 24:13 ; compare 1 Chronicles 21:12 ).

Psalms

If we could believe that the Book of Psalms was in whole or in part the work of David, it would throw a flood of light upon the religious side of his nature. Indeed, we should know as much about his religious life as can well be known about anyone. Unfortunately the date and authorship of the Psalms are questions regarding which the most divergent opinions are held. In the early Christian centuries all the Psalms were ascribed to David and, where necessary, explained as prophecies.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of the Book of Psalms simply as "David" (Hebrews 4:7 ). The Greek text, however, of that book ascribes only some 87 of the poems to David, and the Hebrew only 73. Some of these are not David's, and in the whole book there is only one which professes from its contents to be his, namely, Ps 18 (= 2 Sam 22). The occasion on which a psalm was composed is stated only in the case of thirteen psalms, all of which are ascribed to David. Each of these is referred to some incident recorded in the books of Samuel, although sometimes the citation is erroneous (see PSALMS ). The Septuagint supplies occasions to two or three more psalms; but all such statements are merely the conjectures of readers and scribes and are of no historical value.



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Source

IBSE, "David" (in the public domain) with minor edits.